Breaking the Cycle of Domestic Violence One Board at a Time

Article | Josh Scully

Twenty years ago I walked into a martial arts class with zero intention of ending the cycle of violence against women and children, I didn’t even know I was in a cycle of violence.


Born into family violence with a front row seat to unhealthy relationships. Bullied in high school, because of the family violence at home. I made a poor choice to stand up to the bullies by joining a hardened inner city gang. No longer the victim, I started to become everything I didn't like about the people who had hurt me. It wasn't long before I found myself running from the gangs into dysfunctional relationships with controlling and abusive boys.


At 19, I met a guy who was different to past boyfriends. Craig was well mannered, well educated, didn't have any warrants and picked me up in a car that wasn't stolen - big ticks!

On our 3rd date, Craig took me to watch a Hapkido martial arts grading. I will never forget sitting on the floor of a stinky gym all dressed up watching this guy go for it. I knew I should be impressed and I couldn't believe it, I was ... by the women!


Using their voices, standing their ground and defending themselves against multiple attackers. I watched on and thought is it possible for me to protect myself too?


I went along to classes with the Australian Hapkido Association. Not knowing my feet from my fists but I loved it. Training at every opportunity I began to feel accountable, respectful and strong. I found a place where I could be myself without judgement and I felt like I belonged.


In 2013 I applied to the Layne Beachley Foundation for a scholarship with nothing more than this idea.


What if, instead of feeling embarrassed and ashamed of my personal story of domestic violence, bullying and 'poor choices' as young woman I owned it?


What if I could take my 20 years of self defence training and my passion for girls as a mother of 2 daughters and create something to end the cycle of violence against women and children?


KYUP! Project was born. KYUP! means to shout, a korean word used in martial arts to describe the spirit of self defence.


KYUP! Project moves beyond domestic violence and personal safety awareness campaigns into strong hearted action with the principles of self worth and the basics of self defence.


Empowering young Australians and victims of domestic violence to raise their standards and champion their safety and wellbeing.


More than teaching students how to fight off potential attackers, we equip students with de escalation tools and in-depth understanding of intuition. Knowing what to do when a 'situation doesn't feel right' is a life skill as vital as water and driver safety.


Thanks to the generous support of SMAI, more than 10,000 Australians and Kiwis have learned to break the cycle of violence and break through limiting self beliefs with SMAI boards.


The irony is not lost on me, for the longest time I didn't have a voice and here I am today, giving girls a voice.

 Mel Thomas - KYUP! Project Founder

  Mel Thomas

  KYUP Project